The business of dispatching the hobgoblins was over. The dead were buried or burned. With loot stuffed in sacks, they marched back to Untala. Encountering no trouble, they split the loot and relaxed for a week. Though tavern dwellers listened eagerly about the big tree and the magic pool, they were warned off from finding it. The average citizen of Untala likely had no stomach for adventuring in the woods, anyway.
With the mission half-done, Novak proposed a search to the west for whence came the orcs. Along with him were his squire Golmar, the halfling Cora, the elf Domastaet, the cleric and another cleric named Danh who claimed not to remember much about himself. It was the 16th day of Octopus when they set out.
Walking down the road out of town, they stopped at the first signal beacon to ask questions of the light-keeper. No orcs were spotted since the attack earlier in the year. Rather than continuing on the road, they Novak lead them straight west, towards the river. And when they reached its bank, they followed it downstream.
Presently, they came to a remarkably wide section of river, 400′ wide, plainly disturbed by the crush of many boots, presumably those on the feet of orcs. The crossed the river there and entered the forest. Disturbed and bespoiled turf made an easy path to follow up into the hills. The trail led up into the mountains. When the sun dipped slow, they made camp and passed a restful night in the chill night air.
Shrews and Wolves
Following the path, they turned a corner to face a nest of giant shrews. Novak charged instinctively, skewering one of the beast. The rest of the party jumped into the fray and slew several more. Only one fortunate shrew escaped. The butchered the slain vermin and roasted the tenderloins for breakfast.
Soon the path revealed itself to be a ruined road, with cobblestones gradually appearing here and there. Then the shell of an ancient building popped into view beside the road and before a steep incline. The halfling walked down the road. The elf stood motionless and watched as the rest of the party explored the ruins.
Suddenly wolves howled and dashed towards the halfling who did her best to sprint back to the others. Novak and Golmar stood side by side, waiting to face the wolves to leaped at them. The halfling found a place to their rear.
Meanwhile, the two clerics ran back to defend the elf. Wolves rushed at the two groups, lunging and gnashing teeth. Sword against teeth, the battle raged and a few wolves fell. Golmar landed a heavy blow to one wolf that yelped in surprise and backed off. The next moment Golmar was pulled down by another wolf who savagely tore at his groin.
By this time, the others had converged and the cleric laid hands on the poor squire in order to save his life. The wolves retreated when many of their number were slain. In the end, Golmar was the only casualty. He was gravely injured, and the party guessed it was a werewolf who nearly slew him.
Back and Back Again
With injuries so dire, they concluded that Golmar must return to Untala without delay. They marched all that day and through the night, arriving very late at the town walls. The next day, the 18th, they found wagon headed for Slateholm. Novak gave Golmar a few gold pieces and told him to seek healing from the great priest in Slateholm or else at Lah’s Retreat. The cleric suspected a moon fever would soon overtake him and he’d be lost without holy healing.
One fewer in number, they made again to hike up the mountain on the 19th. This time they made quick assent because they knew the way. As they passed the ruins, a few spots of blood were spied dotting the road. A light snow began to fall that evening as they marched higher. A bolt of lightning flashed moments before a crash of thunder electrified the air.
Before long, the the mountain path curled around a cliff face and came to a wall. A ruined gatehouse offered a clear passage into a cluster of buildings. The halfling crept through the gateway, and when she returned, she described a building with a missing wall. Inside were wolves, apparently sleeping, all arranged around a young girl.